I just finished a 15 year career in the military and am working to transition into a civilian career in information technology. My current resume is six pages long, details my military background and positions using military jargon and has nothing to do with information technology. I know this resume needs revision, but I’m not sure where to start. As I approach my post-military career, how should I reformat my resume?
Hi Jack –
One of the greatest challenges veterans face when they seek to transition from the military to the civilian workforce is translation: How can you translate what you did in the military from military jargon and context into language meaningful to civilian employers?
This translation can be really difficult. Regardless of where you came from professionally, it is usually challenging to explain what you did in terms relevant to someone who doesn’t understand how your qualifications translate. If you are a teacher, try to explain to someone in business how your teaching skills translate to business. If you have worked in business, try convincing someone in the non-profit sector that you have the ability to work in their world. The translation isn’t easy, but it is necessary, and it is your job as the job seeker to do the translating.
A while back I responded to a similar question: How can I get into consulting after a military career?
I recommend you review my advice in that blog post as well.
Now your specific question about resume format and structure.
If the military service is directly relevant, list the specific roles (described in civilian terms) in the Experience/Relevant Experience section of the resume
If your military experience includes experience working in information technology, by all means include that experience in your resume but describe it using civilian language. Your campus career advisors should be able to help you do the translations.. For example:
Sometimes, simply using military experience to illustrate beneficial qualities and characteristics is the best option
If your military experience is not related to the civilian field you wish to enter, you may just use it to convey the valuable qualities and characteristics you offer as a veteran, such as leadership, dependability, maturity, decision-making, courage, loyalty, etc. Your resume speaks to your experience and education, of course, but it should also convey information about your skills, qualities and characteristics.
Many resumes include Honors and Affiliations or Honors & Recognition sections. This can also be a good place to include military honors
Your military honors are evidence of you accomplishments. Employers like resumes that are evidence-based (example-based), and military honors are evidence that your superiors recognized excellence in you!
Keep it brief – 1-2 pages tops
Your resume is an executive summary of what you offer. It should not be the “extended play version” of your life on paper. Try to keep your resume to a single page (two pages, tops!). Again, your college career counselors should be able to assist you with your resume. You can also check out my Resume Guide and the Resume Gallery that is part of this blog.
Focus on the “Why” not on the “What”
It is important to focus on the “Why” and not just the “What” when preparing content for your resume. Answer the “Why” question and you will know where and how to include your other experience on your resume as well.
Your resume should tell your story. Not your entire story; but the parts of your story that are relevant to employers told in a way that makes sense to them. You are the storyteller, so tell an interesting and compelling story.
When you focus on the “Why” message in your resume (your story), you have to translate what you offer into language meaningful to the audience you are trying to persuade of your candidacy.
I hope these examples help.